Are Educational TV Shows Effective Teachers?

Are Educational TV Shows Effective Teachers?

An analysis of the important role the media plays in our child's education.

It seems like the perfect innovation: a device that provides entertaining, interactive education to your child 24/7 free of cost (with the exception of the monthly cable bill, of course), allowing you to safely plant them in front of the screen while you work or savor your free time. Since it's conception, the television has consistently been one of the most constantly-evolving pieces of technology; it started with the intent to spread news and entertainment to the masses and served little purpose beyond that, and was primarily intended for adults. This changed during the late-1940's with the creation of shows such as Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Howdy Doody, and Captain Kangaroowhich served the purpose of entertaining children rather than adults.

While TV was often regarded as mindless entertainment, this would change as a new dimension of children's media emerged in 1969; with the creation of the instant hit Sesame Street came a flood of innovative new shows for children that not only sought to entertain, but also to educate. While productive in theory, many parents debate whether or not this "hands-free" approach to learning is actually helping their children to grasp preschool concepts, or if it's simply a toned-down form of child neglect. Does educational television actually help children learn, or is it too good to be true?

The first benefit of educational television comes in the form of accessibility. A child coming from a financially-strained family may not be able to attend preschool (an issue I've previously tackled), but can easily turn on the TV to have access to similar knowledge they'd be expected to learn in preschool. The basic comprehension of numbers and letters, for example, is a fundamental part of childhood development, and though it's ideal for a physical entity, such as a teacher or parent, to teach these to a child, a parent may not have the funds to send their child to preschool, and may spend a majority of the day working. This is, of course, where educational programming has an advantage; it's accessible and reliant, providing an otherwise uneducated child with the information they'll need in a fun and interactive way.

Another major benefit deals with how vast and widespread television is. While this may seem like a drawback to many, as an overly-generalized approach can ostracize minorities, many educational TV shows have actually done the contrary. Naturally, education on certain topics differs between locations; a preschooler from San Francisco is going to lear about different societal issues and norms than a preschooler from small-town Georgia. My own mother, for example, grew up in a small village in Illinois during the 1970's, just a few decades after the ban (yes, ban) on blacks in the county was lifted. Naturally, the first time she was exposed to non-white individuals was through the media-- specifically, Sesame Street, which was famously known for being one of the first children's shows to feature a racially-diverse cast. This came as such a culture shock to the American population that Mississippi actually attempted to ban Sesame Street from airing in the state, fearing that it would confuse children seeing a fully-integrated cast. Racial diversity isn't the only area where Sesame Street has proven to be a positive source of societal progression-- also featured in the show was a segment about breastfeeding, a cast member with Down Syndrome, a muppet whose father is incarcerated, a song empowering natural hair, and even an episode that tackled the sensitive topic of death. For many children, this would be their only means of learning about such topics, as most preschools shy away from them. Introducing these topics also gives parents a great opportunity to discuss them with their child, giving the topics a preface and reason to be discussed. For minority children in less diverse settings, this can provide a sense of inclusion and representation; A young Mexican-American girl may consider the curious and corageous Dora the Explorer to be a role model, for example-- I personaly find Julia, the first-ever muppet with autism, to be a great example of representation for myself. Though reading, writing, and math are integral parts of education, it's imperative that children learn about the world around them and the people within it.

Though it's clear that TV offers an accessable education with different perspectives than a preschool classroom, what are the shortcomings of educational TV? Well, the main issue with it is that many parents rely on it to be their child's sole educator, which professionals strongly discourage; unlike a teacher, who can stop, repeat, and answer questions, the TV can only go forward,at a pace that may not be ideal for certain children. The child cannot ask questions on puzzling topics, which can lead them to either not grasp-- or worse-- misunderstand a lesson. Schools also provide social interaction, teaching children how to communicate and cooperate with other children and adults, which is something the TV can't provide; Schools give children a strict schedule they must adhere and adapt to, and teaches proper behavior and management skills. The child cannot learn from experiences from the TV like they can at a preschool, where many lessons and ideas are coneyed through the senses; all they can do is watch. Another major issue boils down to the unhealthy nature of watching TV; when a child learns in a school environment, play and physical activity are encouraged, while excessive TV watching can cause a child to become lethargic.

So, now that we know the pros and cons of educational TV, what can we take from this? Well, like most things, educational programming is good... In moderation; to properly learn, children need the aid of an adult who can discuss and explain concepts to them. In reality, educational TV is most effective when used as a supplement, rather than the primary source, of education. It's important that parents and teachers, rather than the media, lead the education of children. So, no, there's nothing wrong with your child watching TV, but it is important that you know what your child is watching, and provide further information on what they're being taught. As previously mentioned, these shows can spark a conversation between you and your child, and can give you the opportunity to teach them with a hands-on approach. This approach is supported by the creators of Sesame Street, who decided to air their episode about death on Thanksgiving, when children would be around many adults to help support their understanding.

In the end, it's important that we realize the importance of discussing things with our children, and guiding them through the world of education by hand, rather than by screen.

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To High School Seniors In Their Last Semester

Senior year moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Dammit, you made it. The final semester of your senior year. You’re at the top of the food chain of high school, and it feels so good. You’re probably praying this last semester flies by, that you get out of town as soon as possible.

At this point, you’re calling teachers by their first names, the entire staff knows you by name, and you’re walking around school standing tall, owning those hallways. You’re convinced you’re ready to leave and move on to the next chapter in your life.

You’ve already experienced your last football game, standing in the cold in the front row of the student section all season long, decked out in your school colors and cheering loud and proud. That is, until they lost, and you realized you will never have that experience again. Never again.

SEE ALSO: What I Wish I Knew As A Second-Semester High School Senior

You already had your last winter break. Preparing and celebrating the holidays with your family, ice skating and sledding with your best friends. Those quiet nights alone in your room watching Netflix, taking for granted your loved ones just a few rooms away. Never again.

If you’re an athlete, you may have already played in your last game or ran your last race. The crowd cheering, proudly wearing your school’s name across your chest, giving it your all. For some, it may be the end of your athletic career. Before you knew it, you were standing in an empty gym, staring up at the banners and thinking about the mark you left on your school, wondering where on earth the time went. Never again.

I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss it all. Everything you’ve ever known. Those early mornings when you debate going to first hour because you really need those McDonald’s hash browns. The late nights driving home from practice, stopping for ice cream of course, ready for a late night of homework. Getting food on a whim with your friends. Endless fights with your siblings. Your favorite chips in the pantry. A fridge full of food. Coming home to and getting tackled by your dog. Driving around your hometown, passing the same sights you’ve seen every day for as long as you can remember. Hugs from your mom after a long day. Laughs with your dad. And that best friend of yours? You’re going to miss them more than anything. I’m telling you right now, nothing will ever be the same. Never again.

SEE ALSO: I'm The Girl That Enjoyed High School

Before you start packing your bags, slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. You’ve got it pretty good here. The end of your senior year can be the time of your life; it’s truly amazing. So go to the winter dance, go to Prom, spend Senior Skip Day with your classmates, go to every sporting event you can, while you still can. College is pretty great, but it’s the little things you’re gonna miss the most. Don’t take it for granted because soon, you’ll be standing in a packed gym in your cap and gown, wondering where the heck the time went. You’ve got a long, beautiful life ahead of you, full of joy but also full of challenges. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, people who will treat you right and people who won’t.

So, take it all in. Be excited for the future and look forward to it, but be mindful of the present. You’ve got this.
Cover Image Credit: Hartford Courant

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11 Things Your Mom Taught You About Adulting You'd Be Lost Without

Her advice really does make this whole adulting thing a whole lot easier.


As a 20-year-old, I'm in that super awkward life stage where I have no idea if I'm an adult or still a teen. Everyone you know is either married, has kids or is just like you. As weird and uncomfy it is to accept the fact that you're a young adult, there's one thing that seems to get us all through it: our mothers. Without our mom's advice, we would be lost and let's face it, she talks major sense into you when you aren't seeing clearly.

With that being said, here are 11 things that your mom has taught you when it comes to adulting.

1. Turn on the vent fan whenever you use the stove.

When you're making pasta, veggies, literally anything... turn on the fan, at least if it's me. I somehow manage to set the fire alarm

2. Put 10% of whatever you make into your savings.

... if this isn't the realest thing I've ever heard. When you're in college, money is tight and it's extremely difficult to budget all of your priorities and still set aside money for things you actually want to spend on. If you put 10% of every paycheck into your savings, it's a for sure way to hold onto a little bit of extra cash.

3. Close your shower curtain when you get out of the shower.

This was one of my worst habits growing up. I would constantly leave the shower curtain open and wondered why my mom always got so sassy when I left it open. Well, ya better close it, people. If you leave it open while you're in college, you don't have your mom there to tell you to close it, and you're definitely going to wish you did when you walk into our bathroom and see the curtain covered in mold.

4. Electric bills are expensive. 

Man, do I feel guilty for using up so much unnecessary electricity when I was younger. Now that I'm living on my own, I understand why my mom always wanted me to turn off the lights I wasn't using and wait to start the dishwasher until it was full.

5. Coupons are your friend.

Again, college is expensive. The key to getting through it is finding some coupons to get you some major cash-saving deals. I'm not saying you have to learn the art of coupon-clipping but I am saying that googling some while you wait in line at checkout usually results in some money off when you actually pay.

6. There's healthy ways to cope with stress.

Everybody deals with stress and nobody understands it better than my mom. She lets me know ways that I can occupy myself and unwind.

7. Everything you cook is something you got from her.

I mean this literally. I call my mom when I don't know what to cook for dinner. She explains recipes to me over and over again, mostly because I never write them down. It can be something simple or difficult, whichever ones they are, they all come from her.

8. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Whenever somebody wrongs me and I vent to my mom about it, she makes it clear to me that hurting them back is never the answer. She reminds me that what goes around comes around. Karma is real, and it does nobody any good to stoop to your level.

9. There is an actual technique when it comes to packing.

Oh, you have a lot to pack? Are you nervous it won't fit? Don't fold it, roll it. Trust me, it's a game changer.

10. Procrastinating will do more harm than good.

I am always swamped with work and my mom always encourages me to get it done. Whenever I test that theory, I realize that she's right because any time I procrastinate, my work is never at it's best.

11. You will always have a best friend waiting for your call.

No matter what, your mother is always there for you. She's waiting at home for you to call, so make sure you do it. I can talk to my mom on the phone for hours and it's so comforting to know I have a mom who misses me dearly and can't wait to hear about everything I'm doing and everything that is going on.

As we go through college, we can't forget the advice that our mom has given us growing up. I can guarantee that she is always right and you're going think of her once little things that these tips come in handy happen. Don't forget all the things she has told you because trust me, you're going to need it.

My mom is my biggest supporter and role model and I can't thank her enough for all these done for me all these years.

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